India's heavy loss to Australia in the recent Women's ODI Championship fixture has prompted the BCCI to expedite the process of strengthening the bench strength of the national team. After streamlining the domestic structure and introducing India A tours, the selectors have been asked to handpick a pool of pacers, spinners and wicketkeepers and test them in a camp at the National Cricket Academy beginning later this month.
The likes of Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami are not going to be around for long and the board feels that it is time to act now. Lead pacer Jhulan was not fit to play against Australia and that hurt the team which was blanked 0-3 in the series.
The women's committee - comprising COA member Diana Edulji, Mithali (ODI captain), Harmanpreet Kaur (T20 captain), Hemlata Kala (selection committee chief) and Prof. Ratnakar Shetty (convenor) - will meet on March 28 to review the team's disappointing performance against Australia and discuss the way forward.
"There is a definite need for more quality pace bowlers and spinners. The Australia series showed us that. They played our spinners rather easily while our team struggled against theirs. We also need more firepower in the batting department," Edulji, who is also a former India captain, told PTI.
More consistency is also expected from established names like Harmanpreet and opener Smriti Mandhana. Looking ahead, the board is planning to scout for talent from all parts of the country including the North East.
"The recent tweaks in the domestic structure, including the introduction of the U-16 category, will take a while to take shape. But there is still a need to find the right available talent from all parts of India including North East, an area which has not been explored much," Edulji said.
The popularity of the women's game has shot up ever since India played in the World Cup final in England last year. The female cricketers finally have money and fame coming their way after years of neglect.
"Since they have all the facilities now, they must perform consistently. That is the only way to keep the interest in women's cricket alive," summed up Edulji.
Going forward, India not playing regular international matches won't be an issue anymore with a majority of teams willing to play the sub-continental side outside the ongoing ICC ODI Championship. The team's next challenge is the home T20 tri-series involving England and Australia, beginning Thursday in Mumbai.
(With PTI Inputs)